PITTSBURGH (AP) — A man who served 34 years in prison for the killing of a 15-year-old girl before new DNA evidence was discovered will not be retried, a prosecutor said Monday in announcing that all charges would be dropped.
Lewis Fogle, 63, was released from prison last month after a judge vacated his murder conviction. But Fogle was merely released on bond until Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty agreed to dismiss all charges against him in the rape and murder of Deann Katherine Long.
The judge's decision stemmed from a joint motion by the New York City-based Innocence Project and Dougherty, who agreed the DNA evidence raised enough doubt to jeopardize Fogle's conviction.
"I feel that he was involved, but the question was if we were ever going to have the evidence to prove that," Dougherty said Monday. "As I said before, there's a difference between innocence and being unable to prosecute."
Fogle was arrested in 1981 along with three other men, but he was the only one to stand trial. He steadfastly maintains his innocence.
"I want the people to know that I did not commit the crime, and a lot of people out there know I did not commit the crime," Fogle told The Associated Press after Monday's decision. "I'm hoping very strongly in the near future that the truth will come out with the names of the guilty parties, and I hope if any are still alive that they will be brought to justice."
Karen Thompson, one of Fogle's attorneys, said 30 states and the District of Columbia have statutes that compensate wrongly convicted people. Pennsylvania does not so Fogle will have to sue if he wants reparations, she said.
Fogle was 30 with a pregnant wife and infant son when he was convicted in 1982.
"I'm sure in light of his 34 years' incarceration and the time that's taken away from his ability to pursue a career" that Fogle may sue, Thompson said. "But today he's just focused on his freedom."
Dougherty said investigators have re-interviewed several witnesses since the judge freed Fogle and concluded, "There's no way to resurrect the case."
The DNA, taken from semen found on the victim using technology not available decades ago, excluded Fogle. The samples are being tested against other suspects, and the investigation will continue, Dougherty said.
"This is now considered an open homicide," Dougherty said.
A stranger found Deann's body on July 31, 1976, near Cherry Tree, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The previous day, Deann's younger sister saw a man telling her their brother had been in a car crash, and the sister later saw her in the man's car.
That man checked himself into a psychiatric facility and was questioned about the killing five times but was never charged. But after he was hypnotized to aid investigators, he said he was present when Fogle, his brother and two other men raped, then shot the girl.
Fogle was tried and convicted after three jailhouse informants testified he confessed to them. Charges against his brother, imprisoned for a child sex conviction last year, were dismissed under speedy trial rules. Prosecutors eventually cited a lack of evidence in dropping charges against the other two, one of whom has since died.